Unite union warns fresh strike action "almost certain" if fresh talks fail in bitter BMW dispute after workers reject pensions offer

 
Rebecca Smith
BMW workers at the Mini plant in Oxford have been among those striking
BMW workers at the Mini plant in Oxford have been among those striking (Source: Getty)

Unite union has warned a further bout of strike action at BMW's UK plants over pensions is "almost certain" if fresh talks fail to reach a resolution.

Unite representatives met today to discuss the next steps in the long-running dispute over pensions with car giant BMW, after workers yesterday rejected a fresh offer.

Fred Hanna, Unite national officer for BMW, said: “We expect to meet BMW in the coming days. Shop stewards from all of BMW’s UK plants are clear that further strike action is almost certain unless the company puts forward a new offer that better addresses members’ concerns.

Read more: UK car production slumps on late Easter and strike action

“We would urge BMW bosses to engage constructively and work with Unite to hammer out a deal which is acceptable to our members and averts the disruption of further strike action.”

Workers across BMW's UK plants have taken strike action several times over plans to close the final salary retirement scheme, and had originally set eight 24-hour strikes over two months, though action was suspended for fresh talks.

But a consultative ballot, with Unite asking its members at Cowley, Goodwood, Hams Hall and Swindon, was rejected yesterday by 56.6 per cent.

In a statement, BMW said it was "disappointed" that Unite members had rejected the offer, saying it was fair and "designed to improve competitiveness which is in the long-term interests of all our employees in the future".

Concerns have been raised over the industrial action's impact on production, with both Mini workers at Cowley and Rolls-Royce workers in Goodwood among those striking in April and May. Question marks remain over whether the walkouts could affect the Mini plant's chances of being chosen as the location to build a new electric version of the car.

BMW has so far remained cagey over its UK plans going forward, with chief executive Harald Krueger saying in March that while the UK remains important for the firm, "much will depend on how Brexit is ultimately negotiated".

Read more: BMW's tight-lipped over UK plans saying it depends how Brexit is negotiated

BMW's first battery-powered version of the Mini is set to go on sale in 2019, with BMW saying a final decision on where it will make the electric car will be taken this year.

More than 200,000 Minis are built at Cowley each year, while BMW also has a smaller plant in the Netherlands.

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